Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a letter to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, stressing that Tehran will take whatever action to get back the Central Bank of Iran’s assets that the US has recently seized under a court ruling.
The letter was submitted to the UN Chief by Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gholam Ali Khoshroo.
It came after the US Supreme Court ealrier in April upheld the Congress and President Barack Obama’s actions to hold Iran financially responsible for the 1983 bombing that killed 241 Marines at their barracks in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
The ruling allows the families of the Marines and victims of other attacks that courts have linked to Iran to seize some $2 billion in assets held in New York’s Citibank, belonging to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), which has been blocked under US sanctions.
What follows in the full text of the letter, released by Iran’s Foreign Ministry:
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
In the past few years, the United States has persistently engaged in a dangerous practice of defying international law and order by allowing, in fact instigating, private litigants to bring civil action before US domestic courts against sovereign states, including the Islamic Republic of Iran. Trials have been organized in absentia; self-serving judgments have been obtained in default; and claims have been laid on the assets of the Iranian people. Knowing full well that no self-respecting nation, certainly not Iran, would ever subject itself to the jurisdiction of another states domestic courts, they have amassed billions of dollars in unlawful and factually flawed default judgements against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its organs.
The US Executive branch illegally freezes Iranian national assets; the US Legislative branch legislates to pave the ground for their illicit seizures; and the US Judicial branch issues rulings to confiscate Iranian assets without any base in law or fact. The veracity and credibility of the US justice system when it comes to its treatment of Iran can be measured by the recent ruling of a New York District Court that ordered Iran to pay more than $10.5 billion in damages to the families of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, claiming against all evidence and common sense that Iran “provided active support to the attackers.” Such absurd allegation – not by a politician but regrettably by a so-called court of law—contradicts even public statements as well as findings – open or sealed of investigations by the US Government and US Congress. Ironically the same court absolved the real culprits of any responsibility and ruled against Iran, which was the victim of the same terrorist group and has consistently been in the forefront of international efforts against them and their Takfiri extremist siblings.
In sum, in blatant contravention of the most fundamental principles of international law – not to mention facts, the United States has devised a pseudo-legal scheme that subjects Iranian assets held in US and foreign banks, and even Iranian cultural property held on loan by American museums, to spurious rulings and unlawful collection proceedings.
The principle of state immunity is one of the cornerstones of the international legal order and a rule of customary international law, most recently codified in the United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property. Its primacy has also been recognized by the community of nations, all legal systems and the International Court of Justice. With the sole possible permissible exception of “commercial activity”, claims against a sovereign state must be pursued either in accordance with mechanisms provided for in bilateral or multilateral agreements or through international courts or tribunals, as appropriate.
It is a matter of grave concern that the United States Congress, along with other branches of the US Government, seem to believe that they can easily defy and breach the fundamental principle of state immunity, by unilaterally waiving the immunity of states and even Central Banks in total contravention of the international obligations of the United States and under a groundless legal doctrine that the international community does not recognize.
In view of the detrimental effect of such practices on the integrity of the international public order, I wish to alert you and through you the UN general membership about the catastrophic implications of the US blatant disrespect for state immunity, which will cause systematic erosion of this fundamental principle.
The Islamic Republic of Iran rejects the unlawful decisions by US courts in this respect, including the ruling that authorized the confiscation of nearly 1.8 billion US Dollars of assets belonging to the Central Bank of Iran to the benefit of private litigants. The entire court proceedings which led to the recent ruling has been fake and phony and a travesty of justice in every sense of law, jurisdiction, merit, fact and process. This clearly constitutes an international wrongful act and entails international responsibility for the Government of the United States, for which it will be held accountable. The Islamic Republic of Iran holds the United States Government responsible for this outrageous robbery, disguised under a court order, and is determined to take every lawful measure to restore the stolen property and the interest accrued to it from the date it was blocked by the United States.
It is in fact the United States that must pay long overdue reparations to the Iranian people for its persistent hostile policies. Such wrongful US policies and actions against Iranian people, entailing international responsibility, are self-admitted and based on solid historical evidence and not absurd fabrications. They include overthrowing the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953, actively supporting and sponsoring the ensuing brutal dictatorship and aiding and abetting in its crimes – including tortures by US-created and US-trained SAVAK against the Iranian people from 1953 to 1979, actively providing intelligence, support and comfort to Saddam Hussein in his war of aggression against Iran from 1980 to 1988, including provision of AWACS reconnaissance to aid Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians – which amounts to a war crime , deliberate shooting of an Iranian civil airliner in 1988, killing all 290 passengers, and the plundering of Iranian assets held abroad. The Islamic Republic of Iran reserves the right to take appropriate lawful action, including necessary and proportionate countermeasures, to restore and protect the rights of the Iranian people against such persistent unlawful conduct by the United States.
There has seldom been so much at stake for the rule of law, the proper functioning and integrity of the international legal and financial systems, and the prevalence of dialogue and accommodation over coercion and confrontation. In view of the detrimental effects of continued unlawful conduct by the United States, I wish to call on Your Excellency to lend your good offices in order to induce the US Government to adhere to its international obligations, put an end to the violation of the fundamental principle of state immunity, release all frozen Iranian assets in US banks and cease and desist forthwith from any interference with Iranian commercial and financial transactions outside the United States, in compliance with its general international obligations and its obligations under the JCPOA.
I will be grateful if this letter were circulated as a document of the General Assembly under agenda item entitled “Rule of law at the national and international levels” and of the Security Council.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
M. Javad Zarif
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran